LeBron James is running out of time to return to the court. As of Sunday, the end of the regular season is only three weeks away, and yet it isn't clear when the injured Los Angeles Lakers star will be able to rejoin the team. Fortunately, coach Darvin Ham offered a positive update on his status ahead of Sunday's game against the Orlando Magic: while he wouldn't specify an exact timeline, Ham did confirm that the Lakers "anticipate him coming back at some point."
James suffered a foot injury on Feb. 26 against the Dallas Mavericks. He stayed on the floor to help the Lakers overcome a 27-point deficit to defeat the Mavericks, but he has not played for them since. While the exact nature of the injury is unclear, The Athletic's Shams Charania recently reported that the Lakers are preparing for a lengthy absence.
All things considered, the Lakers have played quite well without James. Since the trade deadline, they are now 6-6 with their superstar sidelined. That isn't ideal, especially as they are currently seeded No. 11 in the Western Conference, but considering how poorly some of his other teams have fared without him in the past, a .500 record is far from disastrous.
The Lakers have a weak remaining schedule and are otherwise healthy. Assuming they can stay afloat without James, if he is back in time for the play-in round, the Lakers will be among the most dangerous teams at the bottom of the bracket.
Of course, we don't know what state James will be in when he does eventually return. A similar situation played out in 2021, when James returned from a high ankle sprain right before the playoffs and struggled in a first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers need James as close to 100 percent as possible if they plan to make any noise in the postseason. Right now, it just isn't clear whether or not that will ever be the case again this season.